A Brief Madness [Kydon Chronicles Book Two]
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by Robert Legleitner
Category: Mystery/Crime EPIC eBook Award Finalist
Description: In WWII, Kydon Schmidt, a man with a secret, spies on Nazis and helps fugitives escape.... In this sequel to GOLDEN LEGEND, Kydon is seeking revenge on the men who shot his friend Val. If they want a spy, they'll get one! Book Two of what promises to be a very popular series!
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net, 2002
eBookwise Release Date: June 2006
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [329 KB]
Reading time: 224-314 min.
I saw him fall, oh, god! So long for him to fall, so long to hit the shale. It wasn't an hour ago I asked him to come with me. Not an hour and now he's dead. Falling.... Why did I promise Val to go on, to finish this damned mission ... to leave him? My god, I want to kill somebody!
Kydon Schmidt, his mind murky with angry thoughts of death, could barely stand. He had lost blood, the ache from the gunshot wound in his shoulder spread over his chest, and he fought the vertigo threatening to engulf him.
Carlos Huerra, a Spanish agent, was at Kydon's side grasping an old leather saddlebag. "Before you go on," the Spaniard said, "do you remember what Señor Val told us?"
Weak from the loss of blood and with the pain sweeping over him in throbbing waves, Kydon Schmidt said, "I remember everything."
Carlos opened the saddlebag. He held out a packet of thin material. "Six parcels like this. Three for you, señor, and one each for us."
Manuel, a younger Spaniard coming from behind, said, "Kydon, you must finish the mission."
Kydon's face was cruel with grief. "I won't give those bastards the satisfaction of saying, 'Sorry he didn't make it.' You and Carlos take the damned stuff to them."
Carlos said, "You need a doctor, medicine, time to think." He held out the parcel with the flap of cotton thrown back. "Pebbles. Bright stones," he said.
Kydon had a saddlebag of his own given to him by Val before they left Mont D'Ancienne. He stared at the hand Carlos held out to him, then into his own saddlebag. Uncut diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies, jewels winking in the dying light, and gold, amber. A king's ransom. No, Kydon thought as he looked at the glinting stones, a knight's ransom.
"You meet our government man in Barcelona," Kydon said. "Keep Val's gift and damn the government. Damn Preston and all the bastards who got us into this!"
His anger melted into grief as Kydon saw Val in his mind again, and he stared into the deepening shadows.
Manuel gathered the horses carrying the canvas bags. "Val said the ones marked with red were yours, those marked with white go to your countrymen. Two bags for Don Enrico." The Spaniard spoke quickly with Carlos before turning to Kydon again.
Carlos, his flat black eyes on Kydon, said, "I will take them. Listen! From the sound of the shooting it is almost over. Manuel will take you and your horses to a safe place not far from here to the south."
Manuel and Carlos were scrupulous. Red tagged bags were together, white tagged ones on other horses. Kydon drew in his breath. Time to go, to leave Val dead among strangers.
"I saw him fall. He was shot." He was deliberately brutal as if it helped in some way.
"But, Kydon, it is not as you think," Manuel said.
"It's worse. Don't talk about it or about Val."
The pain from the wound in his shoulder was insidious, the weakness enveloped him, the vertigo almost more than he could fight. His horse followed the one ahead without urging from him. Kydon didn't look back, he was nearly unconscious.
The Baron von Steyr and his dozen loyal Germans, were out of the gorge and gone into the night. Val was dead, the Nazis wouldn't have him now.
Kydon could not concentrate. He followed the Spaniard in a stupor and even forgot the jolting of the horse as he rode down a rocky uneven trail.
The doctor in the small village had seen worse wounds, the bullet had passed through Kydon's shoulder and missed the bones. The old priest was astonished when the blond man spoke in Latin, his mind wandered but the priest caught a few words. Valerius is dead. The priest's own Latin was faulty beyond the limits of the mass, but he tried to tell the young man he understood the anguish.
Behind the church, Manuel hid the canvas bags under moldy straw and bits of ragged tarpaulin after stabling the horses. That done, he told the doctor and priest, "I'll come with a truck in the dawn. Explain as best you can, he has no Spanish."
In the morning, the priest tried to feed Kydon. The young man's eyes were much clearer, a good sign, and he took a few spoonsful of barley broth. The English words he spoke were unintelligible to the old man before he said in Latin, "I thank you, father." He drifted into a half-sleep before the priest could reply.
Kydon ranted in English against Preston and the task force in Washington, at the blackmailing tactics they had used to force him and Val to come to Europe. He raved in German against Hitler and what the man had done to Germany. He railed at the baron for not being the man they expected and for coming between Val and himself.
While the priest worried about the blond man's mind and soul, the doctor was taking pulse and temperature, and changing the dressings. The doctor's wife bathed Kydon and put fresh clothes on him, and burned his blood-soaked things.
Manuel arrived and spoke with the doctor. The American needed more attention, sulfa powder if it could be found, the doctor said, he had none. The man could be moved and should be moved before the local police heard of the skirmish on the border and came to investigate.
"There may be more bleeding but I think not so much," the doctor told Manuel. "Drive as carefully as you can but as fast as you can. The doctors at Gerona should have what he needs."
The canvas bags were loaded onto the bed of the truck, a pallet was arranged between them, and Manuel and the doctor got Kydon aboard. At first, Kydon tried to help but the pain and vertigo left him helpless. He was aware of the truck moving before everything blurred in his mind as the sway of the truck became hypnotic and he fell asleep.
At Gerona there was a doctor who knew Manuel. Kydon's wound was cleaned, sulfa dusted over the injuries, and fresh bandages applied. There was a small room with the shutters closed. A night passed and in the morning Kydon was able to tell Manuel what he wanted. Two leather-covered steamer trunks full of books once owned by an Englishman were found in a shop kept by a middle-aged woman. Perfect, Kydon said.
The length of gold chain and amber beads he used for payment was very old, far older than the woman thought, and both Kydon and Manuel assured her that she could get fifty times the worth of the books and trunks for it. Later that day, children playing in an alley found a heap of books and six empty heavy canvas bags they could sell. They ran into the street waving their treasures and shouting.
At Barcelona Manuel found a place not far from the outskirts where he could leave Kydon and the truck in relative security. "I'll contact Nesmith. He will get you to a safe place," Manuel said. "I must meet Carlos and deliver the rest of the bags."
"No matter how I tried to avoid it," Kydon muttered, "here I am in Barcelona. Sounds like an operetta. Christ."
"With your gold hair and height we cannot risk your being seen," Manuel said. "Someone is sure to report it to the OSS. I'll be back within an hour."
A bleak room nothing like the Chateau D'Ancienne with comfortable rooms, soft beds, superb meals, and the liquor. Hell, Kydon thought, you wouldn't have known there was a war going on if it hadn't been for the uniforms or the Swastika above the door. Not like this. A dingy room in a peeling red-painted house, but he was safe from Nazis spies, Manuel said. Nothing to do but think.
Val is spared all this. What would we have done? On the run, not that Preston or his men knows what happened, but trying to hide. Hell, I didn't think it would be like this. I wanted to find the Gervaise Hoard and we did, but I never thought to have a piece of it. What am I going to do with it? If Val were here I'd think of something but he's dead, I saw him fall. Oh, Jesus, I saw him....
The weakness caught him, he dozed to come awake. Voices. Manuel with someone speaking Spanish. The door opened.
Larry Nesmith was at the bedside in two strides. "We'll get you to a better place than this. What about your people? Manuel says Carlos saw them for you."
"To hell with them. I'm out of it. Manuel says you know where I can stay until this damned shoulder heals."
"You should go to the OSS, see Runstedt. A man named Preston is here from the States." Larry checked Kydon's bandaged shoulder. "You need a doctor."
"Preston can go to hell," Kydon whispered. He had tears in his eyes. "I'm going back to France, I have to, I want to kill somebody, Larry. They got Val."
"You can't go far for some time."
"Hell, I know that. Carlos delivered the stuff to Preston because I wouldn't."
"Damned irregular, Schmidt."
"I said to hell with them! Do you want me or not?"
"You've got to recover first, then we'll talk. You have a fever. I shouldn't do this, but we'll take you to my place."
* * * *
Larry managed to see that Kydon had good food and that the dressings were changed. The lanky black-haired Englishman had been so long in Spain that most people thought he was Spanish, and he had contacts.
After two days in Larry Nesmith's flat, Kydon felt he could move on ... until he tried to walk from one room to another. He couldn't lift a glass of water without his hand trembling and his shoulder felt like it had been hit by a battering ram. He slept and woke to sleep again.
The doctor was hopeful. "A few weeks and you'll be fit. Nesmith has a place for you to stay. We'll see you have medicine. Thank god for the black market, eh?"
"I can pay," Kydon said.
"I don't know how they work that end of it," the doctor said. "I'll change the dressings before you leave." He excused himself and was gone.
The fact that he could pay was dangerous even though Larry said nothing to him about the trunks locked in the box room at the end of the passage. Kydon braced himself when he asked his question.
"Sell an uncut gem?" Larry replied. "I can manage. We may not get what it's worth. What is it?"
Kydon dug in his pocket. When Larry saw the object Kydon held out to him, the Englishman whistled. "A diamond? I know a man who might buy it."
"Whatever you can get for it," Kydon said.
"He--he got it from the baron."
"I see," Larry said in a low voice. "By the bye, no one has heard from the baron. Don't know where he went to earth."
"It doesn't matter now," Kydon replied.
"Doesn't it? Look, I know it's painful, your first time, but--"
"It doesn't matter, Larry. Leave it at that," Kydon said and turned away to avoid the expression in Larry's eyes.
* * * *
Yes, a diamond, the jeweler told Larry, perhaps fourteen carats cut if they were fortunate, good but not fine. One hundred English pounds sterling.
"Half what it should be," Larry said as he gave Kydon the money. "If we had the time, London would get a better price."
"As long as it pays for the medicine, a place to stay," Kydon said.
"Elena won't expect much past the medicine."
"She has a villa on Mallorca we use as a safe house. Until you're fit again."
"Mallorca's out of it isn't it?" Kydon said.
"That's why it's the best place for you," Larry answered with a grin.
* * * *
After a trip to a dingy office in the rear of an ocher-painted house, Kydon had a set of identity papers. He had insisted on using his own name. "I still have the ones they gave me to go into France. I can still be a German citizen."
Larry raised no objections. "It's all the same to me if you want two sets. May be useful.. Now we have someone else to meet."
At a tavern called El Toro Blanco near the docks, Larry left Kydon at a table while he went to"get someone for you to meet." He was back shortly with a small wiry man who smiled like a salesman. "This is my friend Simon Lorca," Larry said. "He has a boat to take your trunks of books."
Kydon might pretend to be a tourist, but he was certain that the captain knew the truth. Lorca spoke slow and deliberate German."Mallorca, yes, and I know the house. I have another passenger, a German, who is going across."
"When can I go aboard? I have papers. And my trunks." Kydon took out his cigarettes. "Do you know anyone in the Black Market? I want American cigarettes."
Lorca said, "I can help with that. It's a good business." He grinned. "A man with money to set up can do very well at it."
"Thank you for the advice," Kydon replied.
"Remember, señor, that if you should do it, it's better to have someone with a boat. Things can be much easier that way."
* * * *
When they took Kydon's four trunks aboard, an older man in a shabby suit was on deck. He watched from beneath shaggy eyebrows as the crane swung the scuffed trunks over the hatch and lowered them into the hold. When he saw Kydon on the gangplank, he turned and went into the cabin.
Lorca nodded toward the retreating man. "He calls himself Paul Vorbeck and says he's on holiday."
Kydon went into the cabin. Vorbeck's forehead was sprinkled with drops of sweat when Kydon introduced himself as Joseph Schmidt and said, "I taught history."
Herr Vorbeck pulled his hand back the instant their palms touched. "I teach. A small school at Ulm."
Jesus Christ, Kydon thought, he could be my father, this frightened man. Smaller, older, but this could be my father on the run.
"My father's home was near Ulm," Kydon said, "at Ravensburg. Have you visited it?"
Vorbeck had the look of a man used to living indoors, there was little color in his face, and now he went waxy. "Never. This is my first trip anywhere in years."
"Then I trust you will enjoy yourself."
"And you?" Vorbeck's voice broke. "You are in the army, I take it. Your arm, the sling, you were wounded?"
"No, a fall. I'm not in the army, it's my heart." Kydon could add truthfully,"There's a constant pain though I look healthy enough."
Vorbeck did not believe him, the pause was seconds too long. "I, too, have a heart condition."
They talked for a few minutes, commiserating because there were no cabins, no bunks, and the older man settled himself in a chair by the table as Kydon took a bench along one of the bulkheads. Lorca came later to tell them a meal would be served. Afterward Vorbeck kept to himself, there was no place for him to get away from Kydon other than the deck. Kydon saw him through the portholes from time to time as the old man paced.
They reached Soller on the northwest coast of Mallorca a little past dawn.
* * * *
The captain said, "The house is owned by an Italian woman who speaks German as well as English." Lorca shouted at the men bringing up the crates and trunks from the hold.
The drive by the sea in the early morning should have been a pleasant experience, but Kydon showed no interest and Vorbeck shrank back against the seat in silence. The old man ignored Kydon but his glance kept going back to the fair-haired young man who took no apparent notice. They came around a shoulder of the rocky hill. The house, plastered and painted yellow with a red tile roof, perched on a bluff overlooking the sea. Surrounded by a neglected garden on three sides, it looked abandoned except for a dusty car leaving the front gate. Their car slowed for it to pass before they entered the forecourt.
A middle-aged woman dressed in black with only a white collar to relieve it answered the door and took them into the hall. A second woman came through a door beneath the stairway and walked toward them.
She was tall, perhaps five feet seven or eight, slender but not too much so, and young, her light brown hair was pulled back and tied with a small scarf. She stopped when she saw Kydon, her eyes measuring him, then she gave her attention to Herr Vorbeck and spoke in German, laying her hand on Vorbeck's arm.
"Isabella, show Herr Vorbeck to his room." She gave her attention to Kydon. "I'm Elena Avezzano. If you'll come with me."
When they were on the stairs and Kydon reached for the bannister, weary all at once, she said, "You're pale. Señor Lorca, help me with him on the stairs. Do you prefer English or German?" Her voice was low, a contralto, and warm.
"Whichever is comfortable for you."
"English then. You were with Carlos Huerra. How is he?"
"The wound in his side is healing."
"Oh yes, he was hurt, wasn't he?" They were on the landing and she asked, "His right or his left side?"
"His left. He was hurt on a walking trip to the north some weeks ago."
"What should we call you?"
"Kydon. That's Greek isn't it?" she said. Kydon, despite his fatigue, was surprised and pleased that she recognized his name."My grandfather read many of the myths to me." She gave his arm a slight tug. "Only a bit farther now."
In a light and airy room as Kydon eased himself to the bed, she tilted her head and glanced at Lorca near the door, then back to Kydon. Her voice was low and unhurried. "I had a message from Larry. If I hadn't, you would be dead. We can't have Nazi spies in our nest, and you are German are you not?"
"German born but I have American citizenship."
Kydon noticed the deep red highlights in her hair where the light glanced off it as she moved around the bed. A brunette, the same color hair as Val. He closed his eyes and tried to think of something else.
"I thought from your speech you might be English, papers here mean nothing of course. You've been on a mission and now you wish to rest."
Lorca said goodbye and the door closed behind him.
"I can pay, Signora Avezzano," Kydon said.
"We'll discuss that later. I do take paying guests now and then as Larry must have told you." She paused. "He said you'd gone on a special mission and that there were two of you." She glanced away when she saw the hurt look on Kydon's face. "Four trunks? You have rather a lot of luggage under the circumstances."
"Books mostly. A few clothes."
If she thought it was strange that he was on the run with four trunks of clothes and books, she didn't show it. She said, "Would you like coffee? We have a good Black Market here. Coffee, liquor if you want it, and cigarettes."
"Please, signora, a cup of coffee."
She left him then and he leaned back, relaxed, and looked around the dimly lit room, the windows were curtained with thick rose-colored velvet. He went to sleep.
She woke him as she put down a tray. "I see you have American cigarettes. May I have one, please?"
She poured a cup for herself and sat in a faded velvet-covered bergere chair.
"We have a doctor in Soller," she said, "a German, and I don't trust him although we've used him before. Of course, the way you look, so German, it may be different. Didn't Larry get you German papers? I seem to remember--"
"I already had some."
"May I see them?" She took the papers. "These will do, they're good forgeries. It would be better if you had a German officer's identity. I'll see to that, then we'll tell the doctor you're on medical leave." She put the papers on the bed near his hand and lifted her cup as she spoke. "There are things you should know, I had to know about you. Larry said you lost your partner. That's difficult."
"How did they get the information to you?" Kydon asked.
"You mustn't ask yet." She waved a finger. "I'm part of the Resistance. I fight for Italy. My husband would have had he lived but a burst appendix stopped him. The conditions were bad."
"I'm sorry." Kydon offered her another cigarette.
She said, "You wouldn't be here if you weren't what you claim. I'm not sure about Herr Vorbeck. You spoke with him on the boat, what do you think?"
"He's running away and scared," Kydon answered. "My guess is, he thinks I'm a Nazi spy or a Gestapo agent. Maybe he's a Jew, and maybe not, but he's a teacher like my father and he's frightened and vulnerable and that's enough."
She brushed at her skirt. "He's ill. That can be difficult."
"If you have to call the German, pray Herr Vorbeck's papers are in order."
"Of course. Oh, if you hear Isabella address me as contessa, I'm entitled to it. That's the way things are."
"La contessa." Kydon smiled. "I'm afraid my manners aren't as polished as you might like."
"Your manners are quite all right. May I ask, is Schmidt your real name?"
"Yes, and I have a doctor of philosophy degree, so if you hear anyone call me doctor, I'm entitled to it. It's the way things are."
Elena's eyes shone with humor as she put down her cup and stood. "I think you need to sleep. I'll look in on you later."
She was still smiling as she left him and closed the door.
* * * *
The next morning he felt up to exploring. The house had a main section flanked by two wings extending toward the sea, and Kydon's room was at the north end of one wing. The household was simple. La Contessa, Isabella the housekeeper and cook, and Guido and Enrico. The men were older and tough and they looked after the two cars and the upkeep of the house.
After coffee and toast, he was glad to go back to his room.
Elena said, "You have a view of the sea and always a breeze. Vorbeck has a room in the front corner away from you. If you like, we can put your things in the adjoining room and you can use it as a study."
"I'd be grateful," Kydon said. He winced, Isabella was changing his bandages.
She was unperturbed as she said, "It looks all right. We won't need a doctor unless it goes septic. You brought enough sulfa powder with you, what you need now is beef broth and meat."
"The room next door," Kydon said. "Do you have a key?"
Elena was not shocked. "Of course. My grandfather kept his library locked. We were only allowed in when he was there." She laughed in her husky contralto.
* * * *
Kydon was surprised to find, in addition to his trunks, a bookcase and a large writing table moved into his study. The table looked, Elena said, as if it had been liberated from a school, and it was placed in front of the windows.
When he first sat at the table, he remembered the library at the chateau, Val by the window with a stack of manuscripts at his elbow. It was a good time in a way, peaceful and beautiful, until the dash for the border, the gunfire, Val falling. Manuel pulling at him, yelling they must go. It was a mental carrousel, macabre and painful. Kydon said he would look after Val, said they would make it. Now he sat alone while the memories went round and round in his head.
Kydon willed himself to think of the smiling Val in the garden, his flushed cheeks after the morning horseback ride with Wolf or how Val looked in the tomb chamber with shadows flickering on the walls as they learned how to get into the shrine. The echoing cave, the surprise when they first saw the Hoard, the glimmering gold and flashing jewels.
There were too many times during the long days and longer nights when he remembered. Val standing over the limp body of Wolf, Val shouting right before he was hit, before he fell. That endless fall.
Kydon would call Isabella for cognac or whiskey.
If he drank too much--he took care not to get drunk in Elena's presence--she said nothing. The countess would linger at the table, the pleasant hostess, and have a drink with him. Herr Vorbeck always excused himself and left as soon as the meal was finished.
Once a week during the next four weeks, Larry Nesmith came on Lorca's boat, usually to be rowed ashore in a rubber dinghy, to dine and stay overnight. "I get a day's leave now and then," he said. They would have cocktails on the terrace, smoke and talk, and always when they had a moment alone, Larry brought up the OSS office in Barcelona.
"They can find you if they want, if Runstedt tries. You should go to see him."
"He can rot in hell and Preston with him, Larry."
"They're your people, Kydon. If you work with anyone, it should be them."
"What makes the difference? As long as I'm fighting the god damned Führer, who cares? I can work for the British. I'd be good, I'm German born, for Christ's sake. I can do it."
"No one says you can't. I'd be damned glad to have you, London would be glad," Larry said more than once.
"At least I'd feel I hadn't been forced to do it with your people, Larry. You don't know how the bastards pressured me and put the screws to Val."
Hearing Kydon's rage, Larry would shrug with a lift of his eyebrows and drop the subject with the same warning,"They can find you if they really try."
One mid-afternoon when everyone was taking a siesta, Kydon, stretched on his bed and half dozing, was brought to his feet by voices outside his door.
"Schmidt? Open the door."